CRIMES against children, whether bullying, abuse, molest or rape, are become increasingly horrifying. Fathers and grandfathers are sexually abusing young children and even infants, and they are being branded as worse than animals because even animals take care of their young.
What’s even worse is older children are committing crimes against their younger or weaker counterparts.
The reported cases of crimes against children are probably just the tip of the iceberg. The government through its agencies, especially the Social Welfare Department, has taken steps to address the problem.
Imprisonment and fines are imposed on offenders but these have not prevented the hideous crimes from happening again.
Getting to the root of the problem is critical, and knowing the mental makeup and background of these perpetrators may be the key to the solution.
These hideous acts are likely to increase as the number of people with mental problems goes up. One of the causes of today’s mental health problems is lack of personal warmth and interaction among human beings. This is the consequence of their addiction to electronic devices, especially smartphones.
Research shows that children with persistent unmet needs during their formative years could grow up to become unemotional monsters who could kill without blinking an eyelid. They grow up with such an insatiable desire to have their needs satisfied that they are oblivious to the needs/feelings of others.
Childcare centres that do not have the appropriate care provider-children ratio may be nurturing this socio-emotional disorder, which can be further aggravated by lack of interaction with adults at home.
The monsters who commit hideous crimes against children may be victims of an upbringing that deprived them of their needs in their formative years. It is important for parents to recognise this possibility and for early childhood educators to be fully trained so that they have the knowledge and competencies to provide children with proper care that ensures their wholesome growth and development.
China seems to recognise the need for children in their formative years to have a good socio-emotional foundation. Perhaps this was learnt from the country’s one-child policy which had produced some little Napoleons who killed their parents for not meeting their demands. Today, the focus in China is on raising happy children and not on achieving academic excellence.
Recently, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Council led a Malaysian delegation to China to visit kindergartens there.
Children in kindergartens which the delegation visited are provided with an environment that is spacious, restful, and pleasant. Physical activities and free play are emphasised. The focus is on socio-emotional development but all activities are programmed to foster every aspect of the children’s growth.
For example, there are science, psycho-motor development, interactions for socio-emotional development and creativity development through water and sand play.
Owing to the freedom to choose their activities, the children are fully engaged in what they are learning. We did not discern any disciplinary problem among them.
Our discussion with the universities and model teachers/lecturers reiterated what we observed in the kindergarten, which is the emphasis on socio-emotional development.
We need to learn from China in that the emphasis should be on socio-emotional development. This could well be the answer to mitigating the hideous crimes committed against children.
DATUK DR CHIAM HENG KENG